Conference posters

Please discuss posters on the conference forum page

Jennifer Hiscock & Jennifer Leigh;

There is a significant lack of retention and career progression for women across the chemical sciences when compared to other STEM disciplines. More women are employed on short-term precarious contracts. Women author fewer papers, and are cited less. Proportionately fewer women sit on editorial boards, are nominated for awards, and far fewer file patent applications (1). In order to ensure the next generation we need to support women to stay and progress, so that they can teach, research, and act as role models. At the current rate of change, the Royal Society of Chemistry recognises that gender parity will never be reached (2).

WISC (Women In Supramolecular Chemistry) is an international network creating a sense of kinship and providing support for women. We are working to bring about gender equality, and to support those who are marginalised. Marginalisation includes characteristics such as colour, ethnicity, disability, and class(3).

WISC is focused on community building and providing avenues for specific mentoring. This could be expanded to enable under-represented groups in chemistry and other STEM subjects. We have a survey on career breaks, parent clusters and a planned skills workshop. WISC is incorporating creative qualitative research methods into traditional hard science approaches. We aim to produce outputs for audiences within the chemical sciences, wider STEM disciplines, higher education, feminist and methodology studies. The voices of women in STEM and their lived experiences are largely absent from literature, and we aim to correct this to support the next generation of women scientists.

1 RSC, 2019. Breaking the barriers: Women’s retention and progression in the chemical sciences, London: Royal Society of Chemistry.
2 RSC, 2018. Diversity landscape of the chemical sciences, London: Royal Society of Chemistry.
3 Fryberg, S. & Martinez, E. eds., 2014. The truly diverse faculty: New dialogues in American higher education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Laura Alexander and Alexis Lansbury

There is little data on whether studying conceptually complex mathematical subjects entirely through onscreen materials is as effective as studying them in book form. Most of the literature in this area is based on studies of students in social sciences, biology or arts subjects.

The Open University has been a leader in distance education for 50 years, and now offers many modules where all the study material is presented onscreen, as well as many which combine printed study materials with online tuition. This presentation reports on the results of a study into an entirely onscreen stage-2 core physics module (ie second year undergraduate), examining the impact for students of coming to it from stage-1 modules whose study materials are largely book based, or entirely online. Surprisingly, the evidence points to having studied an entirely screen based module beforehand being better preparation for the stage-2 physics module than having studied more physics beforehand. Subjective and objective quantitative and qualitative data are used to set the results in the context of recent findings in the field of understanding onscreen learning.

The conclusions emphasise the importance of providing students learning remotely with relevant textbooks or other paper-based learning materials, as well as high quality interactive online resources.
Alison Voice

Students have a habit of leaving their revision for the week before the exam. While this approach is often successful in the exam, it does not build the lasting memory or deep understanding needed for advanced study in higher education. This poster showcases the success of a custom-built web-app to facilitate students’ self-testing throughout term time. The app was made available to 429 physics students within a core 1st year Thermodynamics module across a period of three years.

Students’ use of the app was compared with their end-of-module exam score. To control for baseline ability and exam technique, an ANCOVA analysis was used to adjust the scores based on previous exam performance. Students who used the app to space questions scored 70% on average, compared to 61% for non-users (p < 0.0001). A similar advantage was observed in an impromptu test after the summer vacation demonstrating enhanced long-term retention.

Whilst the effect of spaced testing has been proposed by psychologists and demonstrated under ‘experimental’ conditions, very little research has been undertaken in real classrooms. The novel aspect presented in this poster is the use and success of spaced testing with mainstream undergraduate physicists under normal teaching conditions.
simon rees

A need to foster creative thinking in STEM subjects is becoming pressing. The development of digital technology, and artificial intelligence in particular, is moving at such a pace that it is expected to take over much of the workplace that is reducible to a routine, and adapt and add to those routines to make it more effective (Bakshi, Frey & Osborne, 2015). Even teaching will change (Newton & Newton, 2019). But, at least for the foreseeable future, it meets its limits when it comes to creative thinking, and this is where there will be significant career opportunities.

Popularly, creativity is more widely associated with the arts than the sciences and this remains the case today (Jones et al., 2019; Lehmann and Gatkins, 2019; Rees and Newton, 2020). Creative people study the Creative Arts and go to work in the Creative Industries. Labelling the arts as creative implies that the sciences are uncreative. The education systems of some countries (e.g. Finland, Australia and Singapore) are developing creativity focused curricula to enhance future prosperity but teaching for creativity in the sciences is not widespread (James et al., 2019).

In this presentation, we focus on exploring the nature of create thinking in chemistry. We will challenge delegates understanding of creativity, how we recognise it and how we can teach with and for creativity in Higher Education. Using novel case studies and practical examples, the presentation will argue for the benefits of enhancing opportunities for creative thinking in chemistry education for lecturers and students alike. For students, creative teaching can help prevent a subject appear boring, outmoded and irrelevant and, hence, attract and retain students. For lecturers, it can enable them to adapt to changing needs, expectations and opportunities (as exemplified by recent events) and help maintain enthusiasm and job satisfaction.
Eugene Okwei

In recent years there have been scientific developments nationally in Ghana in radio astronomy. One such project (DARA) trained teachers in radio astronomy. Many of these teachers returned to the classroom.
The purpose of the study is to specifically understand the impact of large scale radio astronomy projects on students’ engagement with Physics in Ghana.

Numerous studies have shown that the engagement is a positive predictor of the quality of learning, school grades, results in exams and, taking a long term view, a positive predictor of regular school attendance, successful school graduation, resistance and life satisfaction (Salmelaâ, Aro & Upadyaya, 2014). Student engagement measures the time and effort students spend on participating in academic and co-curricular activities (Kuh, 2003).

In this study, mixed methods comparative study research design was used, specifically qualitative and quantitative research design. The Sample for the study was DARA-trained teachers and their students and Non-DARA-trained teachers and their students. The sample size for the study was about 1200 students and 28 teachers. The sampling technique used for the study was purposive. Two main instruments was used in the study: questionnaire and interview. Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used in analysing data. The interview data collected so far was analysed qualitatively by transcribing, coding and categorizing into themes and the questionnaire data will be analysed quantitatively through the help of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) based on the research questions. The preliminary results revealed that there is a difference between DARA teachers and Non-DARA teachers on attitudes towards the teaching and learning of Physics, perceptions on the relevance of studying Physics and career aspirations/knowledge of career routes in Physics.
Stephen McVitie

My introduction to Padlet came when drafting a review of teaching practices in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow in 2017. I decided to introduce this to my lecture courses in the academic session 2018-19. The 2 courses I taught were Solid State Physics and Magnetism. These courses are for final year honours BSc students, year 4 integrated masters MSci students and a small number of PGT students. My lecture courses are in Powerpoint format, which I use to deliver the lecture together with black/whiteboard use plus internet resources. After assessing Padlet, I decided to incorporate it as a supplemental resource to break up the lectures with content but also as a means to allow dialogue with students. Previously I found student engagement in lectures limited to a small number of motivated students who would answer questions and also talk in person at the end of the class. The possibility of anonymous use of Padlet by students attracted me as I believe a significant number of students are either nervous or just plain unwilling to communicate directly with the lecturer. I set up a Padlet site for the lecture courses and introduced content lecture by lecture. In the Powerpoint file I placed a Padlet symbol indicating that there was associated content on the site. I made clear to the students the lecture note were stand alone and the Padlet content was for reflection. The content was a combination of asides about scientists, pictures, movies and gifs showing structures in better detail than in the notes. For each entry, students can post replies. The level of engagement has been very encouraging with students also allowed to post their own questions. I will present the pros and cons of my experiences with Padlet.
Craig Campbell

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is changing the landscape for university teaching significantly, including the delivery of practical teaching laboratories. Recognising the potential of resources that can be delivered online, we describe herein a workshop primarily focused on the skills that accompany practical experimental work, namely, strengthening students’ data handling, processing and analysis.

Data handling, processing and analysis are an integral part of a scientist’s skill set, and more generally, are highly sought by employers: recent research by Burning Glass Technologies found that proficiency with Microsoft Excel is the most sought technical skill by UK and US employers.[1]

Recognising students’ relative weakness in data processing using Excel, a workshop in developing their proficiency skills was created; this involved the handling of large data sets, processing information, and visualisation of the data. Contextualised problems relevant to chemistry were introduced, including: linear regression, the use of iterative algorithms to determine roots (Newton-Raphson method), integration under a curve, nonlinear curve-fitting of kinetics data, UV-vis and NMR spectra, and statistical analysis.

This workshop was launched this term (March 2020) as a remote exercise for both our first and second year undergraduate cohorts (>200 students completed to date) as part of a suite of practicals that were delivered similarly. Support to students was provided through email and follow-up video calls. Findings of the workshop and student feedback surveys will be presented and discussed.

[1] a) UK survey analysis: (accessed Jun 2020);
b) US survey analysis:
(accessed Jun 2020).
Ewan Bottomley

Recent research has suggested that female students identify with physics to a lesser extent than men. However, the examination of the gender gap in identification with physics, and how it relates to students’ academic performance, has been sparsely studied beyond introductory physics courses. Therefore, the current study examined responses from 393 undergraduate students, ranging from the introductory to integrated masters levels, from a small university in the U.K.. Students were given questionnaires to complete during lectures at multiple time points across three academic sessions. The questionnaire included items relating to identification with physics, self-efficacy (the belief in one’s ability to complete physics-based tasks) and perceived recognition (the extent to which the student believed others perceived them as a physicist). Questionnaire responses were linked with gender and academic performance prior to analysis. The results revealed that despite similar academic performances, women reported less identification with physics, self-efficacy, and perceived recognition from others, compared to men. We then ran a path analysis examining the relationships between these variables. The results suggested that gender was indirectly related to identification with physics and academic performance via self-efficacy and perceived recognition from others. Interestingly, physics identification was not significantly directly associated with academic performance. Finally, our results suggested that there was a feedback loop between self-efficacy and grades, where students’ self-efficacy determines their grades, but their grades also determine their self-efficacy. In sum, this study suggests that the gender differences in identification extends beyond introductory physics courses. The outcomes imply that self-efficacy and perceived recognition play a role in determining both identification with physics and academic performance, with the relationship between self-efficacy and grades being bidirectional.
Dr Ciorsdaidh Watts (
Dr Linnea Soler (

Students transitioning from school to Year 1 undergraduate Chemistry face multiple challenges, including complexity of the new lab environment. Feedback from Glasgow students shows that they felt overwhelmed by the amount of learning involved in Year 1 Chemistry.

Pre-lab resources (online simulations) have been available to Year 1 students for some time in Glasgow and results show that this active learning approach improves student confidence and proficiency. While effective, simulations do not demonstrate the specific equipment that our students encounter. Therefore, we began a project to create tailored online support material. This involved producing short pre-lab films, demonstrating key techniques encountered in our Year 1 labs. The films were made accessible using subtitling and text pop-ups. They highlight safety information and practical advice, as well as assist students to familiarise themselves with the kit and labs that they will use in Year 1. In order to build on the visual learning associated with videos, accompanying Moodle quizzes were also developed.

We have shown that this combination of pre-lab resources improves the learning experience of Year 1 students, by supporting varied learning styles. We will also measure impact of these resources on the transition from school to university, focussing on student perceptions of ability and preparedness.
Jasmin Panesar, Alisia Maldon-Stanley, Paul Soteriades

In the current climate despite the greatest efforts by those who conduct educational research there is a shortage of physicist’s in the UK, especially among minorities. Participation in Physics remains to be a longstanding issue in regard to an equity perspective. Research conducted by education researchers points to strong gender disparities especially among post-compulsory studies of Physics. However, discourses around the under-representation and retention of minority groups within Physics tend to be dictated by one salient phrase -“the gender gap” with very little focus on race and ethnicity, ignoring the intersections felt by those who fall into both of these categories. The need for minorities in Physics goes far beyond the mere need of diversity and tokenism if we expect the field of Physics to flourish.The objective of this project was to chiefly highlight to what extent minority groups are underrepresented in the field of physics within the University of Kent between undergraduate and postgraduate. This project not only aims to highlight the percentages of females and various ethnicities across all stages but aims to touch on the current factors of divide at play within the subject. This was done through the formation of a survey. The use of a survey allowed us to gain insight into the complexities of identity, race and experiences and was used as the basis for statistical testing. The responses across each year group were analysed to gain an understanding of the ‘pipeline leaks’ as the most prominent metaphor of retention within scientific disciplines – the ‘leaky pipeline model’. The statistical significance of this data was tested using the ‘two tailed p-test’ and the ‘chi-squared test’ to examine the extent of the problem within the University of Kent and call for the dismantling of Physics from its elite positioning as a discipline.
Maria Larriva

Molecules are learnt to be the blocks which build up all living and inert things around us. This idea might lead, though, to a major misconception: molecules represented as bricks in a wall with their atoms steady and glued to each other. Nevertheless, they are not that boring! Giving them the right energy, molecules can move from one point to another, turn around quickly and, modify both, bond distance and bond angles. These movements or vibrations occur when a light of a certain frequency hits a molecule matching the amount of energy needed to vibrate in a certain way. So, scientists can detect the absorption of light in the infrared (IR) electromagnetic spectrum and use the unique fingerprint left by this process to identify molecules, determine their structure and study how molecules are affected by the chemical environment around them.

Despite its importance, Spectroscopy is one the hardest subjects for undergrad students to grasp. In our opinion, the inherent unpopularity of the subject derives from 3 main elements: a complex theoretical and mathematical framework not always easy to break down, the inevitable requirement to master approach abstract physical and chemical concepts, and consequently, a late introduction into the Science curriculum to the students to build up the basic knowledge they need.

We propose an informal, fun and accurate introduction to IR spectroscopy for Secondary School students using music as an analogy of energy and dance moves to represent molecular vibrations. We combine handmade crafting, a bit of acting, teamwork and a lot of dancing to teach about molecular vibrations, how many different moves they can make and how scientists can identify different molecules for their unique dance moves. Here we will share our experience shaking our bonds up.
Eva Philippaki

One of the learning outcomes in our physics labs is specifically oriented towards enhancing effective oral communication skills, and therefore one of the assessments was originally a PowerPoint Presentation.

However, I felt that the PPT format shouldn’t be the only way. Podcasting is a popular method nowadays of communicating scientific research and most students would be familiar with this genre. The basic information and content remains the same, so students still have to achieve the knowledge learning outcomes, but the experience of reading about research or an experiment is quite different from communication such as a podcast of video and it is good for students to be able to present research findings in a number of formats.

We have incorporated video podcasts as part of our 1st year group projects assessment. In this presentation, I will be showing how:
1) we organised students training, offering video editing workshop, simple software and low cost recording equipment
2) design and explain to students the assessment criteria, including peer marking
3) provide feedback in an engaging way through PollEverywhere
Luke Delmas and Jakub Radzikowski;

Experimental science has ‘ways of doing’ that are essential to its success. Students are expected to recognise, learn, and conform to these ‘ways of doing’ although they are often not explicitly taught. Consequently, students can sometime struggle to adapt on transitioning to university. The Chemical Kitchen aims to provide training to undergraduate chemistry students in good laboratory practice, experimental design, and practical skills through food experiments. It has been developed as an Active Learning Pedagogy Transformation project, funded through Imperial College’s new Learning and Teaching Strategy.

The Chemical Kitchen provides learning across disciplines, where a non-threatening, parallel, and inclusive learning environment is rooted in the strong overlap between the skills and attributes needed by professionals in both science and gastronomy. We have developed a novel practical course for first year chemistry undergraduates in which groups of 15 students work in a hybrid kitchen-lab environment over three sessions prior to conducting their first synthetic chemistry experiment.

Learners practice ‘mise-en-place’ as they plan and organize their sessions, working collaboratively in teams to assemble creative dishes. The preparation of the components of each dish requires meticulous craftsmanship, time management, safe working, close noticing, and detailed record keeping. Students use electronic lab notebooks to capture their experiments and have on-demand access to video tutorials illustrating new techniques. Learners have the flexibility and choice to allow their unique experiences and creativity to inform the design of their dishes and experiments, contributing to an inclusive learning environment. In this talk, we describe the developed learning activities and reflect on the experience of the first cohort of students who took the course in winter 2019. Finally, we introduce the idea of ‘Chemical Kitchen Remote’, which aims to address the issue of delivering a ‘wet laboratory’ practical education during these challenging times.
Ross Galloway

Posing questions to the whole class during lecture sessions (often known as ‘clicker’ questions) is well established in physics higher education pedagogy. Modern clicker systems typically provide question statistics and other data to allow analysis of class performance on clicker questions. These can be used in a relatively superficial, question-by-question manner, either to assess the performance of the students, or alternatively to evaluate the effectiveness of the questions. We have applied two techniques from quantitative question analysis – Classical Test Theory, and Principal Component Analysis – to perform deeper investigations of a large body of clicker data. We find that Classical Test Theory can be effective in identifying well-performing questions, and also those that are inconsistent with the wider pool of questions. We also find that Principal Component Analysis can provide useful insight into the question pool: it can confirm that sets of questions form a coherent family, but has also highlighted some unexpected correlations between seemingly unrelated questions. These findings may give some deeper insight into some cognitive strategies used by students when answering in-class questions. We will discuss these in the context of Dual Process Theory, and highlight the implications for classroom practice.
Stefan Guldin

Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) is one of the basic analytical procedures in chemistry and allows the demonstration of various chemical principles in an educational setting. An often-overlooked aspect of TLC is the capability to quantify isolated target compounds in an unknown sample.

Here, I will present a suitable route to implement quantitative analysis in a lesson plan, exemplified by absorbance-based quantification of the colorant Sudan IV and fluorescence-based quantification of rhodamine 6G, a fluorophore widely used in biotechnology. Students conduct TLC experiments following established protocols, take pictures of their TLC plates with mobile phones, and subsequently quantify the different compounds in the separate bands they observe. Meanwhile, we have developed a web-app titled that allows to easily upload images and analyse them using a simple browser-based interface. The web-app is now in v2 and already tested by users across the globe. We believe that this is a useful tool for students and hope to see it widely implemented in classrooms and labs.

1) A Toolkit to Quantify Target Compounds in Thin-Layer-Chromatography Experiments – N. Mac Fhionnlaoich, S. Ibsen, L.A. Serrano, A. Taylor, R. Qi and S. Guldin; Journal of Chemical Education vol. 95(12), pp. 2191-2196 (2018)
James S. Wright*, Jun Lai & Julie Hyde

UK universities are admitting increasing numbers of Chinese graduate and undergraduate students (with the likely exception of this year) in STEM subjects, who now make up a significant minority of our student population. In fact, dozens of UK universities now directly accept the Chinese University Entrance Exam (the “GaoKao”) in place of A-levels or the Baccalaureate; and in Sino-British joint institutes, a direct pathway for Chinese undergraduates from GaoKao to a British undergraduate education has been created.

Do we as UK HE practitioners truly understand the nature of a GaoKao in Chemistry? If not, how can we create a suitable environment for their transition to studying a UK Chemistry degree? Assumptions that difficulties in acculturation, classroom interaction and knowledge of the theory are driven only by language barriers or ‘cultural factors’ are at best reductionist, and at worst wrong. Understanding the Chemistry curriculum these students meet in High School and their learning environment is essential.

This study brings together: translated official curricula from across Mainland China and teaching experience from Sino-foreign joint institutes to present an overview of the GaoKao Chemistry experience, and comment on its effect on transition to UK HE.

Significant regional variations in Chinese regional curricula and practice are found; students coming from different parts of China have surprisingly different GaoKao Chemistry experiences. The format of examinations, their typical content and development of transferrable skills is also examined. The study concludes with recommendations for UK HE Chemistry practitioners on facilitating Chinese learners’ transition to UK Chemistry HE.
Lee Saw Im

This study was conducted to enhance student’s 4C skills in chemistry fun learning through problem-based learning (PBL) virtually during Covid-19 lock-down. Its involved 48 students. Students work in team to design a tool or robot using technology to solve the global plastic problem in six weeks. Pupils are given minimal guidance by me to carry out their projects. Students have autonomy to form their team and use any suitable technology for their presentation and design. The PBL has three stages namely Exploration, Collaboration and Sharing and implemented virtually including online evaluation. The result shows 100% students successfully participate, and 14 ideas and designs were made. 4 teams managed to submit their project to participate 2020 BIEA International STEM Competition. Three teams won awards for Best Report Award, Best Video Award and Rising Stars Award
Daniel Elford

Research in chemistry education has shown that students exhibit difficulties in understanding abstract concepts such as molecular geometry, molecular symmetry and isomerism within the field of stereochemistry. Johnstone’s triangle famously describes how the ‘expert’ chemist operates between three levels of chemistry: microscopic, macroscopic and symbolic. However, for the novice chemist, visualising the three-dimensional molecular phenomena to reason competently about this topic can be a monumentally difficult task. Difficulty occurs since the ability to visualise three-dimensional aspects of molecules and their relations with other molecules is a considerable challenge. This can leave students feeling frustrated and demotivated. The transition of constructing three-dimensional constructs from two-dimensional images is neither natural or easy and it is argued that students currently have insufficient interaction with three-dimensional objects.
Using AR and IVR offers opportunities to students to interact with representations of scientific phenomena which could not be perceived in the physical world. These hardware/software technologies allow individuals to interactively manipulate and navigate high fidelity scientific representations; experiences that cannot be obtained in other ways in formal education.

The appeal and engagement of educational escape rooms has resulted in educational researchers championing their use within university teaching as a paradigm to involve students in active learning through an immersive environment that promotes teamwork and problem solving to achieve a mutual goal. However, despite the emerging inclination to the adoption of educational escape rooms, research into the potential learning gains in chemical education through the use of an educational escape room implementing augmented- (AR) and immersive-virtual reality (IVR) is scarce.

Therefore, this research presents the creation and implementation of an educational escape room learning activity for a first-year university-level chemistry course incorporating elements of both AR (using an application created solely by the researcher) and IVR alongside preliminary observations and feedback received from students.
Chiran Mistry

A constant aim of an instructor is to identify how students are progressing in their learning. In this study we examined how perceived levels of confidence in students are linked to attainment in an exam setting. First year undergraduate chemistry students were surveyed using a 5-point Likert-type scale, ranging from Very Confident to Very Unconfident, on the topics introduced to them in a first semester organic chemistry module at the conclusion of the lecture course. The midterm test for this module then used a degrees of certainty point allocation model, which meant that each student’s allocation of points to each answer could be translated into a measure of confidence. Through the mapping of these confidence levels against attainment, it allows insight into where students better understand the content and can apply their knowledge, as well as potentially showing topics where students require further assistance and instructors should give more focus to. Within the same organic chemistry module, a preliminary study on the active learning techniques used by an instructor and how these may influence confidence was also conducted; these techniques were Problem-Solving, Peer Discussion, PollEverywhere and Team-Based Learning. Students were surveyed on how useful they found each technique as well as how engaging they were. Although an early study, this has provided useful information on how students perceive these techniques and the potential avenues for further investigation into perceived learning gains.
Tom Anderson

Ever since I was a first year university student myself, I have been fascinated with the challenges of the transition from A-level (or other precursor studies) and how incorrect assumptions by both A-level teachers and university lecturers (and the students themselves) can colour expectations and course structure unhelpfully. Like many people new to Chem. Ed. it has been a challenge to break into the field; here, I present both preliminary findings from investigative consultations with both students and A-level exam boards, as well as the personal challenges I overcame to pursue this research.
Simon Collinson

With the increase in online teaching in 2020, we will share how we organise an online undergraduate conference and discuss how students engage with it. The final year Open University undergraduate science module ‘Evaluating Contemporary Science’ helps students learn, develop and apply important key skills such as evaluation of reported research and communication to different audiences, along with professional skills such as giving constructive feedback to peers and reflecting on learning practices. The student cohort contains students from a range of different science disciplines, including chemistry and physics.

– All the student presentations included an e-poster, key image, keywords, elevator pitch and feedback within the assessment.
– A recorded elevator pitch enables students to reflect on and improve their oral presentation.
– Peer feedback is required on at least two posters: one within their discipline and one without, this exposes the students to differing viewpoints.
– The poster feedback also helped preparation of the end of module assignment.

Whilst many students enjoy the conference and generally present their work well, it is not clear to what extent they develop (and recognize) deeper rather than superficial critical evaluation skills that focus on the science presented. This is a key issue in terms of helping students learn and practice skills which are needed for them to succeed in their final project module. It is also important to understand how students approach learning through peer-to-peer feedback in an online environment so that student experience and success can be enhanced and best practice in the assessment of such activities can be shared.

Our research questions are:

– Can a student online conference lead to a positive impact on module success through supporting a deeper engagement with critical evaluation of contemporary science?
– What ‘quick fixes’ can we put in place to help promote student engagement in deeper learning and reflection?
Anna Kirkham

Forensic chemistry is a strand through the multiple disciplines that make up a forensic science degree course. Students studying forensic science do so for many reasons and as such have varied experience, confidence and perceptions of chemistry and forensic chemistry.

I have been investigating ways to support development with forensic chemistry to forensic science students across introductory chemistry (Y1) through forensic chemistry (Y2) to forensic toxicology (Y3). Here I will present the outcomes and perceptions of students to the different online resources used to support forensic chemistry modules. These include Bestchoice, Mentimeter, Peerwise, Blackboard, Teams, Khan Academy, Learning Science and iMotion. Highlighting some of the novel differences between the modules to a resource/approach. Which resources engaged students and some of the whys.

This strategy becomes more relevant as next semester we take the step to full online delivery for lectures and tutorials. These finding will help guide the move online for forensic chemistry modules and suggest strategies for engagement for forensic science students.
Carla Aldington

As university student numbers rise, it is becoming increasingly difficult for courses with fixed teaching space to ensure student progression in the limited teaching time.1 In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, heavy restrictions on teaching space will be in place to ensure social distancing, adding further pressures onto the undergraduate students returning for the 20/21 academic year. Students must therefore maximise their contact time by arriving fully prepared. In practical chemistry labs, the current materials available to undergraduate chemists include pre-lab lectures and quizzes, yet the literature and anecdotal evidence suggests that these outdated methods may not be the most effective in aiding student preparation.2 Students have not only reported unpreparedness for practical labs but for new assessment styles in advanced modules. With the underlying aim of increasing student preparedness, course-specific interactive videos were created, and their effectiveness assessed. This research aims to indicate whether using course-specific materials will increase preparedness, facilitating students to maximise their outputs.

HESA data taken from Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2018/19,

M. Stieff, S. M. Werner, B. Fink and D. Meador, Journal of Chemical Education, 2018, 95, 1260-1266.
Helen Vaughan (University of Liverpool) and Alison Voice (University of Leeds)

Whilst a Physics degree leads to a myriad of careers, most students have no idea about most of them, and are bewildered about planning their future. Good resources are available on the internet, and careers services are always welcoming, but still so many physics students avoid the process entirely.

Working with four undergraduates we developed a web-app specifically for physics students to help them start thinking about their future. This App asks students a short series of questions about their employment preferences (E.g. location, office / lab / out and about, large or small team, focus on physics, computing etc) and then it showcases a tailored selection of possible careers, allowing students to learn more and follow up.
This App is useful for students at all stages of their degree (and indeed in high school) to showcase the applications of physics and inspire students to continue their journey in physics. It could easily be adapted for other subjects, and is a fun way to get students to engage with their future in a timely manner.

This poster gives details of the App, it’s construction and feedback from students. And it provides the web link so you can try it out for yourself.
Sreenivasa Rao Sagineedu

Off-campus field trips can greatly enrich students’ educational experience, providing an unparalleled opportunity for students to have first-hand exposure to real spaces where students can make strong connections to the concepts they learn in the classrooms. However, unprecedented, uncertain and challenging times amid COVID-19 pandemic forced academic institutions across the world to quickly adapt to technology-driven instruction. While off-campus field trips to botanical gardens and herbariums offer unique experiences to students of pharmacognosy and phytochemistry courses, creating similar engaging learning environments in alternative settings, especially for online-remote learning, is more challenging and demands the same level of meticulous planning. The objective of this paper is to share the new experiences in creating such meaningful and engaging learning environments using illustration videos, expert talks, virtual tours, complemented with a structured and stimulating discussion forum, to provide many of the identical cognitive and affective gains that an off-campus field trip can provide. In times of unprecedented circumstances, teachers face numerous obstacles as they work to make learning enjoyable, and effective, ensuring the learning outcomes and objectives are achieved. Therefore, innovating and finding new ways to supplement student engagement is as crucial as ever.
Paul McDermott

Transnational education (TNE) is an area of considerable growth for UK academia with 84.2 % of universities offering some form of TNE.1 Whilst traditional TNE involves full student mobility, the needs of widening student participation, equality and diversity have led to investigation of alternative models that enable access to a diverse learning experience within the home country. The importance of this approach has been exemplified by the impact of COVID-19.

In this project, a consortium of six universities (1 UK, 5 Vietnam) have developed new video teaching materials for evaluation in both countries across a variety of different student cohorts. Here we report a mixed methods approach to evaluate the use of Chemistry videos in two Schools of Pharmacy; UEA in the UK and NTTU in Vietnam. Videos were produced in English, in Vietnamese, using English text, Vietnamese voice or vice versa and with a mix of gendered presenters. Students undertook a bespoke concept inventory mcq test, in either English or Vietnamese, prior to exposure to the material and after. Additionally, an opinion based questionnaire was completed followed by a focus group discussion

Data analysis has focused on learning gain and student perceptions of the learning resources. The concept inventory has been used to assess distance travelled in conceptual understanding through use of the resources. By using a novel answer format for the MCQs, that gives an implicit measure of self-assessment accuracy, we have additionally analysed students’ calibration between actual performance and their confidence in the context of self-efficacy and learning development. Focus group analysis has enabled analysis of the context of the quantitative data and the views expressed around gender, language and the format of future collaboration.

Funder: British Council UK:VN Higher Education Partnership
1 The scale of UK higher education transnational education 2017-18, HESA 2019
Nicholas P Power

The laboratory component for any science programme is considered to be an essential experience for learning in science. The use of online remote access laboratory experiments to facilitate this experiential learning is a developing interest in educational research, and in particular here at The Open University.

The study contained herein relates to a number of online remote access experiments in the module S315 (Chemistry: further concepts and applications). This includes a remote autotitrator for an acid-base titration, a simulation of oxygen uptake with a cobalt complex based on real data and the analysis of drug-drug interactions using a simulations of a Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer (LC-MS). The students perform some experiments on their own and others as a group. A primary aim of our investigation was to see the difference between offering an experiment remotely (titration) experiment rather than simulations (oxygen uptake and LC-MS), i.e. whether authenticity affected the perceived value of the experiment.
The data and feedback collected is evaluated and discussed in the context of student engagement, and their perceptions and experience in performing these experiments. It also considers whether the experiments support their understanding of underlying theory. We intend that this study informs a better design of future and existing online experiments for improved student engagement and learning.

In this presentation we will outline our organisation of these online practical experiments, discuss our experiences of running them for the last three years and our analysis of student feedback. It is hoped our findings will assist others with developing online experiments.
Jacquie Robson, Helen Cramman and Samantha Alcock

Chemistry degrees traditionally have a significant practical component. The skills that are often reported as valuable from laboratory work and the skills that are actually assessed are, however, not always aligned. The manipulative skills students need to construct apparatus in a laboratory are valued but assessment of them is often ignored in favour of written reports. Similarly, transferable skills including team work and time management, both of which are noted as important to employability and learning development and which may feature in learning outcomes for laboratory courses, are not easily assessed. This study reports a scoping activity designed to determine whether video recordings can be used to provide students and assessors with more detailed feedback and assessment of the different types of skills that feature in the learning outcomes of many undergraduate laboratory courses. It was completed as an undergraduate MChem research project.

First year students were recorded completing a simple practical activity (a titration) and then surveyed about their background and their thoughts on use of video in assessment. An assessor who was not involved in the activity then was provided with a rubric designed to assess the students’ manipulative skills. The demonstrator watched the video of the experiment and allocated marks according to what was observed on the recording. The assessor was then surveyed about their experience of using video as an assessment tool.
The students responded positively, noting that a different set of skills could be assessed compared to a written report, but the effect of video on student laboratory confidence was raised as a concern. The assessor reported that by using video the majority of manipulative skills could be assessed, and that there was potential for more transferable skills to be assessed. Video could provide more detailed feedback and assessment opportunities if embedded into a course.
Erin McNeill

A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people with a shared interest or passion who learn how to do it better by interacting regularly (E and B Wenger-Trayner 2015). With the move to remote working, Physics Outreach Officers experienced the accelerated development of a CoP through a series of weekly, themed online meetings which has led to an increase in role-based competencies but, more importantly, a sense of belonging. It was recognized that the main source of knowledge for these officers comes from this CoP.
The UK-wide network of Physics Outreach Officers is based across university physics departments and are, or have been, part-funded by the Ogden Trust. They are often the only person with their role in the department and feel isolated without a research group or support team.

Pre-COVID, the Trust arranged two meetings per year for officers to meet and discuss best practice for engaging with communities and enhancing their department’s value in outreach. With the onset of remote-working measures, their feelings of isolation were further exacerbated.

In response, the Ogden Trust implemented weekly online drop-in meetings under a variety of relevant themes, to give officers an opportunity to meet regularly and share best practice.

As a result, the officers experienced the accelerated development of a CoP that would have taken years to develop if left to the previous model. They took collective responsibility to learn from each other, reported more confidence in their roles, and developed collaborative projects across several universities.

This poster aims to give an insight into how CoPs develop, can be evaluated, and how they can be taken online. We will share our experience and case studies with lessons learnt now and how they might change the way we work in the future forever.

Dr Mark Fuller, Outreach Coordinator and Ogden Science Officer, UCL
Erin McNeill, Physics Ogden Outreach Officer, University of Leeds
Dr Amnah Khan, Programme Officer, The Ogden Trust “
Alison Hill

A Smart Worksheet was developed with Learning Science to improve competency and confidence in mathematics in a second year Analytical Techniques module. Students collected their data in small groups but performed the calculations individually using the worksheet which provided instant bespoke feedback. We saw an immediate improvement in student performance on the quantitative section of the exam paper with the average increasing to 72% in 2019 from 43-59% for the preceding three years (p<2×10-11, Kruskal-Wallis test).

What was not clear, however, was if the increase in student performance was due to an increased understanding in how to perform the calculations, or whether it resulted from rote learning the individual steps. To test this hypothesis, in this year’s exam, I changed the values of some of the parameters. Very few students ‘fell into the trap’ and the average for the exam paper and module was identical despite a moderate drop in performance on the quantitative question. The introduction of the smart worksheet has importantly broken the connection between module performance and post-16 maths qualification and reduced the number of fails from a high of 22.5% to 1.8%.

Student feedback from surveys has been overwhelmingly positive and from a staff perspective we found the smart worksheet highly effective at identifying students who needed help the most as we could see at a glance who was struggling.

Traditionally, Smart Worksheets are used summatively to save on marking time; what is novel is that I have used it formatively to upskill students to ensure students from all educational backgrounds have the necessary mathematical skills to succeed.

I think this will be of interest as while Covid-19 has forced us out of the lab for next academic year, I will be able to use this resource to teach my students important data processing skills.
Stan Zochowski

It is clear that the transition from a student’s studying A-levels (or equivalent) to university education can be daunting. And as the programme tutor in physics I was increasingly asked by incoming students about what they should do in preparation for their first year at university. In order to address both situations, we developed an online suite of brief instructional videos, quizzes and other teaching materials to bring the students up to speed with their maths , and allow them to see themselves where their weaknesses might be. I will describe the development of our Maths Bridging Course and outline its successful aspects, including its use by students as a reference point in their first year. A link to our present situation will also be discussed.
Matthew Taylor

As part of a series of Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) student co-authored teaching books, we have written a student guide to learning stereochemistry, with two key innovations:

Student Partnership

Increasingly, the literature suggests that positioning students as their teachers as “partners” in the design of curriculum has positive outcomes both in terms of the new curriculum, but also to the personal development of the students and teachers. However, there are fewer examples of students and teachers forming partnerships to author textbooks, although the same desirable results might be expected. Students co-authors of this book helped create it in the ‘student voice’ i.e. their preferred, more accessible language style, and developed its pedagogic style, for example, the inclusion of useful tips and key learning points.

Evidence-led Approach to Learning Stereochemistry

The literature, including the work of former ViCEPHEC plenary speaker Paula Heron, and our own research strongly supports the use of a hands-on approach to learning challenging topics such as stereochemistry. Teaching in conjunction with the use of a model kit to aid spatial cognition development is very effective and is absolutely crucial for the understanding of advanced stereochemistry.

Our oral presentation will outline our approach to writing ‘Stereochemistry’ and reflect on the experiences of students and academics in co-authoring a teaching aid.

The book is currently available to pre-order
Sarah Rawe

Funding has been awarded by the RSC Outreach Fund for this project but implementation this year was paused because of current restrictions. It will restart in September 2020. The focus is on fostering critical reading skills and this is a relatively underdeveloped area in chemistry.

In the first phase, a ‘Needs Analysis’ and preintervention evaluation involving surveys will be undertaken to determine student attitudes to reading and assessment of critical reading skills. Reading tests will be used to measure comprehension, vocabulary development and reading rate.

Our students will then be required to participate in a series of scaffolded learning opportunities which will help them develop their general chemistry knowledge and their communication skills so that they become more effective chemistry communicators. There will be a focus on the development of critical reading skills by requiring learners to engage with the scientific literature in the form of popular science books and Chemistry World. They will be given a list of suggested popular science titles to choose from which will reflect inclusion principles (in terms of author gender and ethnicity) and a diverse range of chemistry and chemistry-related topics. Learners will also be encouraged to suggest their own titles, thereby taking ownership of their learning and reflecting their own interests and priorities. They will then get to put their chemistry communication skills to use as hosts of a ‘Chemistry for Everyone Festival for Family and Friends’. From their reading, students will be asked to prepare posters, oral presentations or other activities to communicate their chosen topic to the lay-audience at the festival. 

Surveys and reading tests will be used to assess the impact of interventions on reading skills and on attitudes to both reading and to chemistry. Surveys and focus groups will be used to evaluate overall impact and success of the festival in driving learning, improving communication skills and developing knowledge of and enthusiasm for chemistry.